Would paper-tiger boost sales?
During a recent tour of Volkswagen’s Engineering and Planning Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, we stumbled across a little four-wheeled trial balloon the engineers there cobbled up to test the waters for a more sporting Passat.
What they described as primarily an appearance package was shown on a white car. It consisted of a blacked-out roof panel, gloss black instead of chrome on the side-window “daylight opening” (DLO) trim, a gloss-black grille with a red stripe spanning across the tops of the headlamps and grille, blacked-out badging, smoked taillamp lenses, a black decklid lip spoiler and fascia rub strip, big 10-spoke alloy wheels with machined spoke faces and gloss-black recesses, and a slightly lowered suspension. The latter two were the only potential performance upgrades described to us. The mostly black interior featured light-colored contrasting inserts on the seat cushions and backrests and faux carbon-fiber trim applied to the dash and door uppers. Naturally the car also gets a chrome GT badge on the grille, black Passat and GT badges on the decklid, and two black-outlined tape-stripe GT logos on the lower rear doors.
Executive VP of engineering and planning Matthias Erb refused to handicap the likelihood of a Passat GT entering volume production. The true high-performance W-8 Passat was a flop back in the early 2000s, but that one was priced pretty, er, optimistically. It’s tough to say how the market would react to a much lower-cost Impala SS-style Passat appearance package, but the mainstream model is getting long in the tooth, and the new B8 (Type 3 MQB-based) version that arrived in Europe last year is not expected to come here in the immediate future. So VW might try to use new variants like the EPC’s GT concept to take some of the sting out of having to soldier on a few years more with a sedan design that first appeared in January 2011.